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Illegal Interview Questions Can Violate Discrimination Laws

December 7th, 2013

Employees and job applicants are protected from discrimination based on gender, age, religion, race, national origin, and marital status under state and federal employment laws.  The Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 make it illegal for an employer to deny employment or an interview for any of these reasons.  Employment decisions based on questions relating to age, marital status, arrest records, military experience, gender or sexual orientation, religious affiliation, pregnancy, financial information, or social habits that are unrelated to the qualifications necessary to perform a job are illegal interview questions.

Here are examples of interview questions that job applicants may face with the highest potential to be discriminatory and/or illegal:

  • What year did you graduate from high school/college?  This question may be asked to determine the age of an employee or applicant.
  • Is English your first language/What country are you from?  Questions of this nature are specifically about national origin. They are illegal unless they relate to authorization to work in a specific country, or if the prospective employee’s proficiency in other languages is necessary to communicate on the job.
  • Are you married/Do you have children?  These questions imply that marriage or children could interfere with job performance and can also reveal sexual preferences.  Employers can ask questions about limitations of availability of time to work or travel as long as it clearly relates to the job and not to marital status, pregnancy, future plans for children, or sexual orientation.
  • Which religious holidays do you observe?  This question clearly violates discrimination laws based on religious affiliation.  Employers can ask about the availability to work on Sundays or holidays, but only if the job requires  work on these days.
  • Have you ever been arrested?  Though an employer can ask the applicant  if they have been convicted of a crime, they cannot legally inquire about an applicant’s arrest record.
  • What type of discharge did your receive from the military?  While an employer can ask an applicant or employee about their military experience or training, it is out of place to inquire about their discharge status from the military.
  • Do you have outstanding debt?  Employers must seek permission before accessing an applicant’s credit report or history. An employer may not access an applicant’s credit score.
  • Do you drink socially/Do you have a history of illegal drug use or abuse?  Individuals who are currently using illegal drugs are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Those who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse but are not currently engaged in its use are protected under the ADA.

Philadelphia Employment Attorneys at Sidney L. Gold & Associates Represent Clients in all Phases of Employment

When it comes to protecting your employment rights against discrimination or unfair treatment in the workplace, the employment attorneys at the law offices of Sidney L. Gold & Associates in Philadelphia are highly knowledgeable and experienced.  Workplace discrimination claims, contract negotiations, mediations, arbitration, wrongful termination, sexual orientation and gender identification issues, harassment, wage and hour disputes, and employment contracts are just some of the areas of employment law that our firm has successfully handled for thousands of clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Call us today at 215-569-1999 to schedule a confidential consultation or contact us online.

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